Vento sprints toward new role

DALE CITY –When he was a sophomore at Gar-Field High School, Collin Vento made a decision to try lacrosse. The decision, like his game, was a fast one.

“My friend, Tony Litvinas, was on the team and asked if I’d like to try it,” Vento said before the Indians’ practice on Tuesday afternoon. “It didn’t take much coaxing. I wanted to jump right in.

“It looked interesting, fast-moving and a lot of fun to play.”

Now a senior midfielder, Vento may be the fastest-moving scoring threat in Prince William County. He’s coming off a season in which he scored 41 goals and assisted on three others. Along with an all-junior attack, Vento’s charge this season is to help make up for the loss of attackman Pat Roche. As a senior, Roche led the area with 54 goals and 62 points.

“Pat was more of a physical player, while Collin is pure speed to the net,” Gar-Field coach Pat Hogan said.

Prior to spring break last week, Gar-Field got a jump on the new season by beating Colonial Forge, 10-4, behind a hat trick from Vento. He consistently dodged and cut past Eagle defenders. More of a shooter and a driver than Roche, Vento makes the most out of his speed.

“In that game, he just ran by kids,” Hogan said. “Plus he has a pretty accurate shot. He’s left-handed, but he’ll use the right if he has to.”

After going 12-6 overall last year, Gar-Field has Cardinal District title aspirations. Osbourn Park, the 2001 champion and a winner over the Indians in the regional semifinals, has moved to the Cedar Run District.

“I think we have enough experience to make up for [losing Roche] where we won’t be at a disadvantage,” Vento said.

Vento played some basketball as a youngster, but he hadn’t tried any other competitive sports until picking up a lacrosse stick. He has been working on his game year-round by playing in summer, fall and winter leagues in Fairfax. And Vento’s more than an offensive force; he led Gar-Field with 129 ground balls as he played solid defense last season.

“There’s definitely more popularity for lacrosse in Fairfax, but I’d say it’s growing down here,” he said. “But playing in the leagues up there gives me a chance to work on my game. I’ve been using my off hand, making better passes and using stronger fundamentals.”

Vento’s hoping to play club lacrosse in college next year at George Mason. First, he wants to help show that Gar-Field’s program can improve despite the loss of its leading scorer. The Indians already have been in this predicament once, and they handled it just fine.

The first year Vento played lacrosse, Gar-Field won just two of 12 games. Nick Gregson was a dominant scorer on that team, but his family moved to Japan following the school year. Even with Gregson’s unexpected departure, the Indians showed a 10-win improvement. They finished third in the district, thanks to the program’s first-ever win over Woodbridge. Then Gar-Field upset second-seeded Stonewall Jackson in tournament play to get to regionals.

To move up even further, Gar-Field will count on Vento to continue the tradition of high-scoring players. While he does his part at the top of the offense, he’ll look for assistance from players such as junior attackman Mark McElwee. In the win over Colonial Forge, McElwee scored two goals.

“We just need to play solid games, to be strong in all the fundamentals,” Vento said. “Obviously, we’d like to progress on what we did last year.”

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